The Supreme Court has set aside removal of a Magistrate on the ground that no opportunity was given to him to make his representation against the findings of the Inquiry Officer.
The bench comprising Justice AK Sikri, Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice MR Shah allowed the appeal filed by R. Alexander against Madras High Court judgment which had upheld is removal.
A lawyer had lodged a complaint against R. Alexander when he was posted as District Munsif-cum-Judicial Magistrate, Kattumannarkoil. The Administrative committee of the High Court framed six charges against him and Inquiry officer appointed by it held that two charges were proved against him.
One of the proved charge against him was that he had travelled along with Advocate MS Senthil Kumar, Advocate (who himself was the complainant), Thirugnanam and one Gopal by Taxi to Coimbatore to give evidence in a sessions case and he also stayed at a hotel at the expenses of the above persons. Another charge was in that he purchased a gold chain with a dollar for a sum of Rs.7,300/- from Manickam Jewellery, Kattumannarkoil through Advocate M.S.Senthil Kumar and paid Rs.5,000/- only and the balance amount of Rs.2,300/- was paid by M.S. Senthilkumar.
The defense of Alexander to the first charge was that he had in fact travelled by bus to Coimbatore; while in Coimbatore he had stayed with his sister and returned journey was also undertaken by bus. To prove this, he made a specific request to the Inquiry Officer for summoning the said record of TA bill. Though the Inquiry Officer passed a specific order directing the management to summon the TA Register, it was not produced. Apex Court bench disagreed with the High Court view that non-production of the said record has not caused any prejudice to him.
The court also noted that copy of the inquiry report was not furnished to Alexander and no opportunity was given to him to make his representation against the findings of the Inquiry Officer. Instead the Administrative Committee accepted the said report and only thereafter the copy of the inquiry report was sent to him along with show cause notice whereby the appellant was asked to show cause as to why penalty of dismissal be not inflicted upon him, the court said. Referring to the representation submitted by him, the bench observed:
"A perusal of the said representation reflects that the appellant had specifically mentioned as to how the complainant had developed grudge against him inasmuch as in various cases the complainant had appeared before the appellant. Some of the orders which were passed by the appellant in those cases were not of the liking of the complainant and because of this reason the complainant had made the complaint against the appellant. The appellant had also brought on record the conduct of the said advocate/complainant who had been indulging in the practice of making such complaints which have been deprecated by the High Court also on previous occasions. The appellant had also submitted that the other witnesses were close relatives of the complainant and, therefore, they were the interested witnesses. Obviously, this defense of the appellant was not looked into by the Administrative Committee as the Administrative Committee had already decided to accept the findings without giving opportunity to the appellant to make a representation against the inquiry report."
The Court also held that non-grant of opportunity in respect of the findings of the Inquiry Officer leads to violation of principles of nature justice. The bench, therefore, set aside the Government Order imposing the punishment of removal with all consequential benefits of pay during the intervening period etc. However, it would be open to the High Court to proceed from the stage by furnishing a copy of the inquiry report to him and giving him an opportunity to make a representation against the said findings, the bench said.